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Currently | The One With All the Rain

Briefly | I was going to get this post up yesterday afternoon, once the boyfriend and I got back from a quick trip to the Twin Cities. But we arrived home to standing water in our basement followed shortly by a wind advisory and a power outage. It was not the most relaxing way to end the weekend.

Reading | My reading pace has been pretty sluggish since the Readathon. Over the last couple of weeks I finished The One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, My Chinese-America by Allen Gee, and The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. This week I’m hoping to finish God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson and some nonfiction, maybe Lesser Beasts by Mark Lessig or a new one I just bought, This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship Between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture by Whitney Phillips.

Watching | I’m almost midway through watching the entire series of Friends on Netlix. After 4.5 seasons, I have the following thoughts: Ross is the absolutely worst (what a whiny baby), Rachel is bonkers but so funny, and yay, Monica and Chandler.

Listening | The boyfriend and I checked out a random audio book from the library for our drive this weekend, Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel by Jason Padgett and Maureen Seaberg. It’s pretty interesting so far, but I’m not sure when we’ll sit down to actually finish it.

Blogging | This week I celebrated my seventh blogiversary, reviewed an essay collection, and shared my unexpected progress at Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge.

Promoting | I try not to get too excited for television marketing trailers, but wow, does this trailer for Supergirl look totally awesome or what?

Thinking | Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor for The New York Times, wrote a piece about the relationship between book reviewers and the books they’re asked to review, looking at what editors of the Book Review consider to be a conflict of interest. I’m amused at the idea that readers are looking for “neutral reviewers,” but I’m so zonked I can’t quite put my finger on more coherent thoughts.

Hating | Rain. Bring out the sun, please.

Loving | I got a bunch of great recommendations for finishing the Read Harder challenge — thank you! I’m thinking of doing a round up of suggested titles in an upcoming post.

Anticipating | We’re in the early stages of planning a weekend up at my parents’ cabin for mid-June. I am so excited.

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Apparently 2015 is My Year to #ReadHarder

Read Harder Bingo Card

Generally, I am terrible at reading challenges. It seems that as soon as I challenge myself to do something, it turns into work and I automatically don’t want to do it anymore. The best way to ensure that I won’t ever read a book is to put it on a reading challenge list.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I am actually kicking butt at one challenge this year, Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.

The goal of the Read Harder Challenge is to complete 24 tasks (i.e. read 24 books) “that represent experiences and places and cultures that might be different from your own. … We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out. That’s what this is – a perspective shift – but one for which you’ll only be accountable to yourself.”

I wasn’t planning to “officially” do this challenge this year, but when I reviewed the list of tasks a few weeks ago I realized I’m well on my way to being able to complete this challenge. The bullets in bold are tasks I’ve completed, while those that are plain text are tasks I still need to finish.

2015 Read Harder Challenge List

  • A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
  • A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
  • A collection of short stories Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman
  • A book published by an indie press Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean (Graywolf Press)
  • A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ Smash Cut by Brad Gooch
  • A book by a person whose gender is different from your own Eye on the Struggle by James McGrath Morris
  • A book that takes place in Asia Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  • A book by an author from Africa Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture
  • A microhistory – The Monopolists by Mary Pilon
  • A YA novel – The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
  • A sci-fi novel
  • A romance novel
  • A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
  • A book that is a retelling of a classic story
  • An audiobook
  • A collection of poetry
  • A book that someone else has recommended to you
  • A book that was originally published in another language
  • A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
  • A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (reread)
  • A book published before 1850
  • A book published this year – Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin
  • A self-improvement book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Twelve tasks finished and it’s not even half way through the year! I’m amazed. And kind of excited, since I feel like maybe I can actually finish this one. I’d love your suggestions for books to fill some of my incomplete categories.

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Chinese-AmericaIn the first collection of essays by a Chinese-American male to be published in over a decade, Allen Gee writes about aspects of Asian-American life in a detailed, eloquent manner, looking at how Asian-Americans view themselves in light of America’s insensitivities, stereotypes, and expectations. My Chinese-America speaks on masculinity, identity, and topics ranging from Jeremy Lin to immigration to profiling to Asian silences. This not-to-be-missed collection from SFWP Awards Program winner Gee has an intimacy that transcends cultural boundaries, and casts light on a vital part of American culture that surrounds and influences all of us.

One of the things I enjoy when settling into a collection of essays is seeing the different threads that get pulled together. Even when essays that were previously published are pulled together, as was the case with My Chinese-America by Allen Gee, there are often themes that run throughout the book. In this case, I can see pretty clearly which of the threads in this book worked for me and, unfortunately, which ones didn’t.

It seems the essays that landed were those that focused on topics that are under-served in contemporary writing, primarily questions of racial identity and the Chinese-American experience. The essays that fell flat, for me, were those that covered more familiar territory, especially masculinity and aging, because they didn’t seem to have much new to say.

With that in mind, I want to write specifically about two of the essays – one that didn’t work for me and one that I enjoyed. In one essay, “Echocardiography,” Gee writes about being diagnosed with a heart condition, atrial fibrillation, just after turning 50. Getting the diagnosis required a long hospital stay and, upon release, a new regimen of pills twice daily to keep his heart beating smoothly. While I’ve no doubt this was a deeply challenging time, the essay didn’t help me think about the experience of aging in a new way. And there was am uncomfortable passage about a female cardiologist that gave me pause about the perspective of the piece. Overall, I just wanted more out of it than I got.

In contrast, the opening essay of the book, “Profile,” was much more effective. In this piece, Gee writes about being pulled over by a state trooper in Kansas, ostensibly for failing to signal when changing lanes. In reality, Gee was a victim of racial profiling, his truck searched and his privacy violated while on the way to visit his family. He then writes about how that experience continued to affect him, making him paranoid to break even simple laws (buying a fishing license) that white Americans don’t even think about. Those are uncomfortable experiences to read about from a place of privilege, and Gee shares them effectively and honestly.

There are other essays in the book that I enjoyed, stories about Gee’s parents and grandparents as early immigrants to the United States and thoughts on what Chinatown means to Chinese-Americans and white Americans. But they were punctuated by pieces about masculinity or the anxieties of aging men, topics that the book failed to make interesting to me as a skeptical reader. So ultimately I’m left with mixed feelings – I’m glad to have read about cultures that are underrepresented, but wish that the book had stayed focused there instead of visiting more well-tread territory.

PoeticButtonI received this as part of a book tour organized by Poetic Book Tours. Other tour stops include BookNAround (May 2), Book Dilettante (May 5), Bell, Book & Candle (May 5), Austen Dumas (May 13), 5 Minutes for Books (May 19) and Create With Joy (May 30). 

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happy blogiversary

Briefly | Life got the better of me this week, so I decided to take an impromptu spring break from blogging. It was kind of awesome. I’m not sure that I’m entirely recovered from the last few stressful weeks, but today is my seventh blogiversary and I couldn’t let that go by without a little celebration.

Reading | Since I started blogging in 2008, I’ve read 698 books. I don’t have all of them listed in a spreadsheet, so I can’t break them down by genre, but I pretty consistently read about 60 percent nonfiction and 40 percent fiction. Blogging has helped me expanding my reading horizons into comic books, audio books and young adult fiction.

Listening | Over the last seven years, I’ve listened to 49 audio books. My audio book listening goes in spurts, often depending on how much driving I have to do. The first audio book I ever listened to was Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, at the recommendation of my sister and my cousin. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Blogging | In seven years, I’ve posted 1,348 times (and hit post 1,000 just before my five-year blogiversary). Of those, 473 have been book reviews of some kind. Here are some other blog-related stats:

Promoting | As I was putting together this post, I went back to all of my previous blogiversary posts. I love that they’ve all been a little bit different: Happy One Year Blogoversary!My Two Year Blogiversary!Happy Third Blogiversary to Me!Happy Fourth Blogiversary to Me!Thoughts on Blogiversary Number Five, and Six Reasons I’m Grateful for Six Years of Book Blogging.

Loving | Thank you all, so much, for continuing to read what I write here. Finding a community of readers through this blog has been one of the biggest joys of life. I’m getting a teary-eyed just thinking about it.

Wanting | I hope that in the next 365 days of blogging, I can keep finding ways for this blog to bring joy. This space has evolved since my first post went up seven years ago, and I know that it will continue to change. I want those changes to always be for the better.

Anticipating | The year ahead is a big one. I’m excited and nervous and hopeful and so grateful that I have a space to share it. Happy Sunday, everyone!

Photo Credit: Martin Thomas via Flickr Creative Commons.
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Currently | Visions of the Summer Ahead

currently may 3 2015.jpg

Time and Place | About 9 a.m. on my favorite chair in the living room.

Eating and Drinking | We had our first “official” dinner on the deck on Friday night — steak, potatoes, broccoli and new summer cider. Hooray for beautiful weather.

Reading | I went totally off plan this week thanks to the arrival of an ARC of Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. This is the second in a planned trilogy (I think) set in a distant future country that’s returned to feudal rules and technology. Instead of books I “should” be reading, I reread the first book, Queen of the Tearling, then flew through the second. But I have seriously mixed feelings about them! On the one hand, I love the characters and, to an extent, the story. But I feel like the rules of the world that Johansen set up aren’t clear and, when magic is involved, there are no established rules. That makes it hard to settle in, or feel like the plot has any logical place to go… I want to talk about these with people!

Watching | We went to go see Avengers: Age of Ultron last night, and it was awesome! It had everything I love in super hero movies. I loved the way they built out some of the Avengers backstories — Hawkeye, for example, had more dialogue in this movie than in all of the other Marvel movies combined — and that there were lots of jokes. Good job, Joss Whedon.

Listening | I’m still making my way through Missoula by Jon Krakauer. This one is great, but very hard to listen to for a length of time.

Blogging | This week I shared five novels that I’d recommend (and when you should read them), as well as took a look back at my reading in April.

Promoting | I was interviewed about my life as a book blogger by Freya at Freado Blog. You can read all about how I started blogging, my routine as a blogger/editor (not much of one at all), and my biggest book blogging pet peeve.

Hating | April. April was terrible. Good riddance.

Loving | My friend Erin came to visit this weekend, so we’ve been hanging out and exploring my small town. It’s fun to explore a place you know well with someone new, to see it with fresh eyes.

Loving II | This week has just been beautiful, warm and sunny but without the high humidity we can expect when summer arrives. I’m trying to soak it all in as much as possible.

Anticipating | Today Erin and I have a long day of laziness planned. I took tomorrow off work so we can go shopping and exploring in a bigger town about 45 minutes away. Yay.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you reading today?

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